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Beyond the Usual 10 Suspects

How can a community overcome the influence of a small number of vociferous residents?

Here's how several BC municipalities balance the opinions of the vocal minority with the silent majority and move "Beyond the Usual 10 Suspects".

PERSPECTIVE:

A Mayor and Council are being influenced by the opinions of a small group of vocal residents.

Kent Waugh - Managing Partner

The Challenge

Protecting the community against the influence of a small number of vociferous residents.

This has been happening throughout history

A small number of very vocal residents attend all government functions and meetings, pushing forward their agenda and perspective on which direction they feel the community should go.

The challenge of managing the influence of the 'same 10 people' can be extremely time-consuming and stressful for all municipal staff. How does a municipality provide balanced opinions from across its community to the Mayor and Council so that decisions are made in the best interest of all, not just a few?

The Solution

Actively invite all residents to join in on future conversations via a Community Engagement Research Panel.

Building engagement capacity

Build a sustainable, ever-growing database of residents whose opinions collectively reflect those of the entire community. This database, appropriately structured, can form one cornerstone of a municipality's community engagement program and lead to significant gains in numerous aspects of municipal planning and operations. 

The W Group, who coined the term, ‘Community Engagement Research Panel (CERP)’ to describe this tool and has been working with numerous communities to establish best practices for how municipalities can build and use this approach. 

Community Engagement Research Panels

Key benefits include:

  • Representative Results

  • Speed 

  • Capacity Building

Community Engagement Research Panels provide significant benefits to the community, most specifically its planning process and public consultation practices.

 

Representative Results: Very accurate and reliable results that are representative of community population are acquired by specific recruiting and balancing of community members, based on collected profiling demographics. This balances the opinions of the vocal minority with the silent majority.

Speed: Within 72 hours, 90% of all responses are received. Research-ready, fully-engaged residents respond online in their own time, using their computer or mobile device. This saves time, stress and effort. 

Capacity Building: Once in place, a Community Engagement Research Panel will also help ease the effort involved in conducting surveys. Evidence from a representative sample of residents - not just opinions from the 'usual 10 suspects' - offers the municipality a higher capacity for evidence-based decision making. 

Bottomline: Departments get survey results that are representative of the community, letting them make recommendations to Mayor and Council with greater ease and confidence.

The Results

Establishing Community Engagement Research Panels for several BC municipalities has enabled them to gain residents' opinions while guarding against the influence of a few vociferous residents.

For less than 10% of the cost of a modern traffic signal, 

Your community can gain the power of a Community Engagement Research Panel.

Here's an example case study: The legalization of cannabis has created countless surveys and studies across Canadian communities. While municipalities must figure out the best approach to permitting the consumption of marijuana, they must also guard against groups on both sides of the topics skewing community surveys.

Recently, one municipality announced was going to conduct a community survey and use the results to determine the best permitting approach. To guard against any groups trying to sway the outcome of community survey, we recommended only including the opinions of CERP members who had joined the panel a full month before the announcement.

We certainly noticed an upswing in residents joining the CERP in anticipation of the survey and, to be transparent, we did send them a survey invite. In analyzing the results from members who joined one month before the announcement and those who joined after the announcement, we definitely saw a skew in favour of.... (sorry, the rest of this case study is confidential, but we will say that the outcome was definitely influenced by the majority of the community, not the vocal minority).

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